Although starting from humble origins, the evolution of modern gaming over the past three decades or so has been quite the ride - from 8-Bit styling and rudimentary shapes on the earlier consoles, to the modern titles that boast hyperrealism and seamless transitions from gameplay to cutscenes.
The enhancement in technology for our games also goes hand in hand with the platforms we use to play these games, and that technology is changing fast. We’re now seeing an evolving climate in gaming, as the target audience has adjusted over time - but also the practices taken by publishers and developers, to innovate and maximise sales within these games.
Console Gaming - Forever seen as the more casual approach to gaming, as the barrier to entry had only ever been the cost of buying the console and games - in a way it still very much holds this reputation. A platform that is available to all, with larger libraries and no specific knowledge needed to get involved – this is the choice of many.. The old guard of Sega and Nintendo have very much moved away from the dedicated console platform as we know it - Sega have moved on to publishing games, and Nintendo have a primary focus within the handheld market, leaving Sony and Microsoft to battle it out with their flagship consoles in the Xbox and PlayStation.
Both have their audience, as each platform boasts exclusive titles, but over time this practice of exclusivity has started to change. A move to cross platform gaming became increasingly appealing, and publishers began to release games across all platforms, incorporating a time gated exclusivity rather than complete exclusivity.
The audience of console gamers has really shifted however, as the initial market for the wider casual gamer has started to move toward mobile gaming instead. The current generation consoles are being pushed to their limits with modern titles, as a we gear up for the holiday season - the newest releases with stronger hardware, and a move towards optimisation for increasing frame rates are more sought after. Furthermore, the gap has been closing between consoles and the more exclusive PC gaming market - as the hardware is improving, so is the desire to have increased frame rates. These changes may be the push needed to prevent later generation consoles from fading.
PC Gaming - This has always come on a more enthusiast scale, which is changing but also still mostly applicable. In the past, if you wanted to be on the forefront of newer releases, you’d need to custom build your own PC in order to run these titles well. Whilst the last decade or so has seen an increase in companies that offer custom PC building, it’s still a bit of a complicated procedure for those not in the know with all the hardware available.
What has really changed the perception of PC gaming, however, has been the widespread and explosive success of esports - games such as League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are becoming household names. Their viewership numbers rival those of traditional sports, and investor interest continues to grow as larger organisations start to pick up teams and players to represent them. Whilst there are console games that participate in esports, it is still very much centered around PC gaming and, as such this is one of the two paths that the market seems to be taking.
Handheld and Mobile Gaming - This is the second biggest change occurring in gaming, and also the second of the two paths where we may see the future of the industry. Handheld devices such as the Nintendo Gameboy, were always pillars of the casual gaming audience too, and oftentimes aimed that the younger generation - but with modern handheld devices, it has very much separated itself in a product that you’d have alongside either a console or a PC, or both. You’d play your favourite console games, and then hop on to your switch for an hour or so of Animal Crossing,A rapid change and increase in the numbers of casual and hyper-casual gamers is occurring - the previous demographic of young teen males in gaming is being replaced by middle aged women with disposable income. Furthermore, the development of triple A titles is now being eclipsed by the huge investor and advertiser interest in modern mobile games - so much so that it has even started to change the market. Microtransactions and purchasable extras are now a staple of the industry.
These mobile games are quick to access with no barrier to entry, as smartphones are so commonplace. The hardware inside them is similar and as a result, the outreach they find is substantial - from puzzle and brain teaser games, to betting and casino games providing another way to have fun – they’re also becoming extremely accessible. It’s easy to see why the mobile gaming market is performing so well.
With mobile gaming capturing what the handheld and more casual market, and PC with the esports push, it’s likely we may see different forms of gaming being phased out over the next decade. It is very clear however, that the rise of hyper casual gaming and the social media platforms that integrate with them is the new ‘normal’.